José Mourinho's record in European Cup finals speaks for itself, but The Special One didn't leave anything to chance when selecting his lineup for today's Europa League finale against Sevilla. With his side beset by injuries this spring, Mourinho has had to channel his inner Claudio Ranieri. However, unlike the Tinkerman, Mourinho did so out of necessity; his regular starting lineup has been decimated this spring—not quite literally, but it does feel like 10% of his squad was out at any given moment.
But, with the Europa League title and a spot in next season's Champions League on the line, Mourinho rolled out what, at this point in the season, should be considered his A-Team: Paulo Dybala, Lorenzo Pellegrini, and Tammy Abraham leading the attack; Zeki Celik, Nemanja Matic, Bryan Cristante and Leonardo Spinazzola in the middle of the park; Roger Ibañez, Chris Smalling and Gianluca Mancini in defense with Rui Patricio minding the goal.
Sevilla, meanwhile, didn't start former Roma player Erik Lamela or former Roma tormenter Alejandro Gomez, instead trotting out a lineup featuring familiar faces like Ivan Rakitic, Jesus Navaz, and Bryan Gil, among others.
With white smoke billowing out from the Sevilla end of the stadium, Roma took the early initiative, winning a corner in only the second minute. Pellegrini whipped in a beautiful cross destined for Ibañez and the near right post, but rather than meeting the ball, Ibañez and Sevilla defender Nemanja Gudelj banged heads, leading to an early stoppage in play.
Sevilla would have their turn at the corner flag in the 8th minute, one that was delayed as Rakitic was pelted with, well, garbage from the Roma fans. Cooler heads would ultimately prevail after Dybala gave a telling glance to the Roma curva before Tammy turned away Rakitic's attempt with a towering headed clearance.
Roma's first real chance came in the 12th minute when Spinazzola was on the end of a square ball from Celik. With no defenders in his immediate area, Spinazzola appeared to have ample time to pick and choose his place, but rather than waiting, Spinazzola attempted a one-timed shot...straight at the keeper.
Sevilla would gradually grow into the match as the clock pushed past the quarter-hour mark, enjoying more prolonged spells of possession. However, in true Roma fashion, Mourinho's men quickly dropped behind the ball, erecting a maroon wall in front of Patricio's goal and doing well to disrupt the attack when it approached the edges of the 18-yard box.
However, despite Sevilla's new-found confidence, Roma's defensive approach worked like gangbusters, limiting the Spanish side to one shot through the opening 25 minutes. With Smalling calling the shots in the back, Roma swarmed Sevilla at every turn, throwing themselves in front of any would-be shot and using their height advantage to win the aerial battle.
With the half quickly winding down, Abraham was on the receiving end of a boot to the temple, and while VAR took an obligatory look, they found nothing untoward with a striker getting kicked in the side of the head; go figure.
But Roma removed all doubt from the equation moments later...
Paulo Dybala: 35th Minute (Sevilla 0, Roma 1)
WELCOME BACK PAULO DYBALA. pic.twitter.com/6BMo3BQfDB— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) May 31, 2023
Talk about an unexpected sequence. What started with Bryan Cristante jostling with Ivan Rakitic near the midfield stripe quickly became a stunning goal. While Cristante lost possession momentarily, Roma caught a break as neither Cristante nor Rakitic could quite find the ball. And rather than Rakitic scooping up the ball and rushing headlong towards Patricio's goal, Gianluca Mancini calmly picked up the ball, slicing the Sevilla defense in half with a 30-40 yard through ball. And while the pass caught Dybala in stride, with the defense quickly collapsing on him, La Joya did well to beat the keeper with a lovely left-footed finish at the far post.
Roma nearly doubled their lead in the 41st minute when Pellegrini lofted a free kick from 35 yards out towards the far right post. With Ibañez tracking it like a labrador after a stick, a thunderous headed goal seemed like a formality, but the ball ran just a bit high and wide for the Brazilian defender to get a clean look.
Sevilla nearly equalized off a 44th-minute corner when Rakitic picked out Fernando in the middle of the area. While Fernando was clear, he overran the ball by a hair, making for an incredibly difficult off-balance header, one he pushed narrowly over the bar.
Thanks to a litany of injuries and a few VAR consults, the officials tacked on an astonishing seven minutes to wrap up the first half. Roma nearly had their backs broken deep in stoppage time when Rakitic rifled a shot at the right post, narrowly missing a goal by maybe two inches. Rakitic's shot was so powerful and well-placed that the rebound almost scored as it struck Patricio in the back.
As expected, Sevilla made immediate attacking changes to start the new half, swapping out Bryan Gil for former Roma fan favorite Erik Lamela, while former AC Milan forward Suso also joined the fray. Mourinho, meanwhile, stood pat with the same eleven from the first half.
With a one-goal lead to protect and 45 minutes between him and a Europa League title, Mourinho instructed his side to defend at all costs, putting nearly every man behind the ball as Suso, Rakitic, and Lamela attempted to claw their way back into the game.
And find their way back, they did, albeit with a bit of help from Mancini, who scored an own goal off his hip in the 56th minute after Jesus Navas played a sharp ball toward the near right post.
Gianluca Mancini (OG): 55th Minute (Sevilla 1, Roma 1)
AN OWN GOAL BRINGS SEVILLA BACK INTO THE TIE!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) May 31, 2023
IT'S THE FIRST TIME A GOAL HAS BEEN SCORED AGAINST A JOSE MOURINHO SIDE IN A UEFA FINAL SINCE 2003... pic.twitter.com/KKCRKbkhYE
With the tenor of the match wholly shifted, Roma swapped hats with Sevilla, trying in vain to establish any attacking fluidity. At the same time, their opponents, imbued with new confidence, raced headlong after a match-winner.
Roma came close to recapturing the lead on a goal-line scrum in the 67th minute after Pellegrini played a great ball into the box, producing multiple chances from Smalling and Ibanez, as bodies hit the floor left and right.
Mourinho then made a rather strange substitution, swapping out Dybala for Georginio Wijnaldum, perhaps signaling an intent to grind this match down to 120 minutes and penalties to decide the title. The Special One went to the bench again in the 75th minute, bringing Andrea Belotti into the mix for Tammy Abraham.
Roma caught a GIGANTIC break moments later when Roger Ibañez appeared to take Ocampos down in the box. With the Giallorossi players swarming referee Anthony Taylor to plead their case, their argument seemed to fall on deaf ears, but fortunately, VAR was on Roma's side, and the penalty call was negated.
LIFELINE FOR ROMA AS REFEREE ANTHONY TAYLOR OVERTURNS A PENALTY. pic.twitter.com/tw2pLxfCW4— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) May 31, 2023
Roma then came excruciatingly close to stealing the lead back when Belotti got on the end of a Pellegrini free kick, leaping in the air in a desperate attempt to one-time/volley the ball into the back of the net, only to be denied by a fingertip save from Yassine Bounou. There was also a controversial no-call for a handball in the box that would have given Roma a penalty attempt—this was by far the most chaotic sequence of the match.
And it was clearly a penalty—see for yourself...
Given all the VAR checks and yellow cards, the second half concluded with six additional minutes. And in keeping with the theme of the second half, Roma sat back and hoped for Sevilla to make a mistake rather than taking the initiative. Fortunately, Sevilla couldn't create any genuine chances, barring one stinging effort that Patricio barely turned away.
Mourinho started the extra time by bringing Nicola Zalweski into the match in place of Celik, giving Roma some much-needed energy on the flanks. While neither club was necessarily afraid to commit numbers forward, as the clock moved past the 100-minute mark, both managers became slightly more conservative, presumably keeping one eye on the penalty rounds.
After a listless first 15 minutes of extra time, Mourinho made a double change to start the second half of extra time, bringing Diego Llorente and Stephan El Shaarawy into the match for Spinazzola and Pellegrini, respectively.
Moments after the second half of extra time began, play halted for several minutes after Ibañez's lower lip was split open by an Erik Lamela elbow. Ibañez, who was down on the pitch the entire time, actually had his lip stitched while lying on the pitch.
Unsurprisingly, due to that extended delay and good old fashion time-wasting/gamesmanship, the officials added an additional six minutes, pushing the total match time north of 130 minutes.
And, as you can imagine, neither side took the risk, opting instead to kill time before the penalty rounds.
- Lucas Ocampos (Make)
- Erik Lamela (Make)
- Ivan Rakitic (Make)
- Gonzalo Montiel (Miss, VAR reviewed, then makes)
- Bryan Cristante (Make)
- Gianluca Mancini (Miss)
- Roger Ibañez (Miss)
From our CdT dictionary...
Roma Happened: This is perhaps the most common saying in CdT history, and as such, it's hard to define precisely; Roma Happened can encapsulate last-minute defeats, penalties (justified or not), failed transfers, ill-advised transfers, injuries, stadium delays, unsightly neck tattoos, torn ACLs. Literally, anything bad or unfortunate falls under the Roma Happened purview—use it with caution.